IMPORTANT NOTE! This is the third version of the chapter. I've corrected some spelling and grammar mistakes and changed some passages. So, anyone who keeps a copy should download the new version.

Finally finished this one. I hope you'll like the new chapter. I put a lot of work into it. As I mentioned before I won't quite stick to canon since it would be boring to just replace Cecil with Ranma. You'll find out about on the biggest changes right at the beginning of the chapter. The Damcyan part was supposed to be much shorter but the ideas just kept coming while I was writing. I hope you won't hold it against me, but I know from experience that readers prefer longer chapters anyway.

As always, please tell me if you find any spellings or grammar mistakes as well as missing words. I hate it when my stories contain errors.

If you have any questions, please don't be afraid to leave a review (*hint* *hint*) or to send a private message. I'm happy for every feedback I get. Remember, the only bad feedback is no feedback at all.

Enough talk. Just lean back and enjoy the show… and don't forget to read the author's note at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 3 - You spoony bard!

What has gone before:

After a long trek through the Underground Waterway Ranma, Kasumi, Rydia, and Tellah finally confront the Octomammoth that is blocking the exit to Damcyan and after a long, hard fight, in which Kasumi finds out that she has the ability to summon monsters to help her fight, they defeat the monster. With no more obstacles in their way the group hurries towards Damcyan, but as they approach the see that the castle is under attack from Baron's forces. Tellah rushes inside to find his daughter, but when they make it to the last floor they see the girl in a fight against Baronic soldiers. The sage tries to help his daughter, but to his horror a hail of arrows fly towards the poor girl. He is trying to save her, but realizes right away that he'll never make it in time.

"NOOOOO!" Tellah shouted as he saw the arrows fly at his daughter. He knew there was no chance to reach his daughter in time to save her, but he tried anyway, running over to her at full speed, his arm stretched in front of him as if he wanted to push her mentally out of the way.

On his right side he noticed a blur pass him by and recognized Ranma rushing towards Anna at an incredible speed.

'Damn it! I'm too slow. I'll never make it', Ranma cursed inwardly but didn't give up. 'Come on! Just a tad bit faster. Just a little bit', he prayed. Something in his brain clicked clicked and a spell came to mind. "HASTE!" He shouted and his surroundings became a blur as his speed increased dramatically, and he reached Anna's position before the arrows could hit her. He quickly grabbed the young woman and jumped away just moments before the arrows struck.

Tellah was still shaking from the awful experience, but relieved that Ranma had made it in time and saved his precious daughter's life. However, very quickly relief made way for stronger emotions that made his blood boil: anger and hate.

"YOU MONSTER!" He shouted at the large man who had ordered his daughter's execution. "I will kill you for that!"

The dark-clad soldier turned his attention from the woman that had defied him to the old man who had just threatened him and looked at him with curiosity. "Don't bother me. Your turn will come. I have a job to finish first," he dismissed the sage, deeming him no threat, but instead concentrated his attention on the black mage who had challenged him and the boy who had saved her.

"Impressive," he complimented the young fighter. "You are fast indeed, but let's find out if you are fast enough to avoid my next attack," he announced, a cruel smirk appearing on his face.

He murmured a mantra and motes of black flame appeared on the tips of his fingers, before drifting away and floating in the air in front of him. He repeated the procedure two more times filling the air with 30 of those fiery motes which then aligned horizontally to form a large, fiery ring around him. He raised his index and the ring rose up vertically before it started to spin faster and faster until it became a barely distinguishable blur. The malevolence oozing from the flames could be felt throughout the room and made everyone shiver, ally and enemy alike.

However, preparing such a powerful attack took a lot of concentration and so he didn't notice the huge buildup of mana behind him until it was almost too late. The evil sorcerer was just about ready to cast the spell when he felt the powerful magical energy wafting off the old man he had dismissed earlier. Listening to his well-honed survival instincts he interrupted his incantation to try and get away before the spell could hit him.

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Tellah was furious. Not only had that bastard tried to kill his daughter, something he would have succeeded in if not for Ranma's timely intervention, but he had also had the gall to insult his skills by dismissing him as inconsequential. He simply wouldn't stand for that. He may have left his prime a long time ago and he wasn't nearly as strong as he used to be, but in the old days, when he had been one of the mightiest wizards in the world, he would have wiped the floor with that young upstart. Unfortunately, old age had caught up to him and severely deteriorated his magical skills. Nowadays he could barely remember some of the mighty spells he used to sling around with ease. Yet, he had to show that evil bastard that that this old man was not someone to be trifled with.

He concentrated very hard, trying to recall some of the spells he hadn't cast in years, and suddenly the perfect one to use in this situation came to his mind. He knew he had to act quickly lest he forgot the powerful spell once again and so without any more time he gathered as much mana as he could spare. Sure, he would be a sitting duck afterwards, but if the spell did its job it wouldn't matter since the fight would be over anyway. "HOLY!" He shouted before a string of large, white beads left his hand and formed a cylinder of spinning pearls above the general's head, before swooping down to imprison him.

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The sorcerer tried to dive out of the target zone before the spell hit, and most of his body had made it out of the blast radius intact. His legs, however had still been at ground zero and got mangled by the powerful cleansing spell.

He howled in pain for a moment, but very quickly calmed down and looked at Tellah with hate in his eyes. One of his white mages tried to heal the legs, but without success. 'Holy' was one of the most powerful white magic spells known to man after all and particularly effective against evil. The only way to save the man's legs was to first have a very high-level white mage remove the effects of the spell before the wounds could be cured.

The enemy soldiers capitalized on the momentary tacit ceasefire and immediately formed a protective circle around their general.

"Sir Golbez? Are you alright?" The grunt to his immediate right enquired.

"Do I look like I'm alright?" The now named man snarled at the soldier, but quickly turned his attention to the old black mage. The heavily panting old man didn't look like much, but it was clear that he was dangerous, far more dangerous than he seemed. Anyone who had mastered such a powerful spell was.

"Don't worry, Sir. We'll make them pay for this," one of the officers promised. "Men! The enemy has attacked our general! Let's show them what happens to those who oppose Baron!"

The soldiers shouted in approval, but Golbez's raised arm stopped them.

"Enough!" The sorcerer ordered before looking at Tellah. "What is your name, old man?"

"I am Tellah, the sage," he answered with a firm voice. "And I am going to kill you for attacking my daughter."

"I have heard of you," Golbez answered, not intimidated in the least by the threat he knew was empty, "and your reputation is indeed deserved. Never before has anyone managed to hurt me this much. I would love to end your life right now, but alas I'm not fit to fight at the moment. I'll let you go for this time. But remember my words well. I WILL have my revenge. You can count on it"

"What are your orders, Sir?" The same officer as before asked.

"We leave," Golbez answered. "We have what we came for."

"What about the airships? Should I give the order?"

"No, that won't be necessary. Let them have their small victory. I want to kill the old man myself, and with the king and queen dead I doubt the kingdom will dare to oppose our kingdom, especially not with that cowardly prince at its head."

"Hey! You don't seriously think we'll let you leave just like that, do you?" Ranma shouted from the sidelines where he had taken up a defensive stance in front of Anna.

The sorcerer turned towards Ranma. "Don't worry. I haven't forgotten about you. It will be my pleasure to end your life right after the old man's."

"Stronger men than you have tried. I'm Ranma Saotome, of the Anything Goes school of martial arts, and I'm gonna kick your ass!"

"I don't have the time to play with you, kid. Another time, maybe," he nonchalantly waved the martial artist off before being teleported away by one of the mages.

The remaining Baron soldiers took his departure as their cue to retreat, which they promptly did, not encountering any resistance on their way out.

"Anna!" The sage ran towards his daughter and hugged her fiercely, tears of joy in his eyes. "Oh Anna! I'm so happy you're safe. I don't know what I would have done if I had lost you too."

Then the old man's eyes fell on an unassuming man that was standing behind a few Damcyan soldiers not far away from his daughter, and his mood darkened very quickly.

The stranger looked to be in in his late twenties, had long blond hair and a lithe build. He was wearing a feathered hat, a tunic, and a cape, just like the bards of old.

"YOU!" Tellah pointed at the man before seizing him by the collar, lifting him effortlessly in the air and shaking him violently and with an intensity that frightened the others. Rydia instinctively took cover behind Ranma's legs.

"You spoony bard!" The old man growled, not letting go of the kidnapper. "You're the reason why Anna ran away."

"W-w-wait! L-l-let me ex-x-plain," the bard tried to calm down the furious sage, having trouble expressing himself with all the shaking going on.

"SHUT UP!" Tellah shouted, too enraged to hear reason. "I don't want to hear any excuses. You almost got my sweet little daughter killed. If it weren't for Ranma she'd be dead. DEAD!"

"B-b-but…!" The bard tried once more.

"I told you to SHUT UP! You not only have the gall to kidnap my daughter, but you're also hiding behind her, like a coward, while she's fighting for her life? Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you on the spot, you spineless worm!"

The murderous look in Tellah's eyes made the stranger gulp. It was obvious to him that the old man wasn't joking and that he was more than ready to go through with his threat."

Before he could try and reason with the sage once more the one-sided squabble was interrupted by Anna.

"Let him go, father!" She grabbed her father's arms, forcing him to let go and the bard landed hard on his behind.

The old man tried to grab his daughter's abductor once again, but the young woman had a surprisingly strong grip for such a frail looking person and held him back with ease.

"What are you doing, Anna? Let go of me! I have to teach him a lesson. Listen to me! I know what's best for you. I'm your father."

"No, father! YOU listen to ME! I am old enough to decide for myself. I love Edward with all my heart and I want to spend the rest of my life with him."

"NEVER! Over my dead body!" The sage's attention was now fully on his daughter and the bard let out a sigh, relieved that he had a small reprieve from his future father-in-law's anger.

"I won't let you marry that piece of garbage. The kidnapping was bad enough, but putting you in danger like that is just unforgivable. Now, if you really are that eager to marry someone, I have the perfect groom in mind. Not only is he brave and courageous, but he has already earned my respect. In fact, I have him right here with me."

Ranma paled visibly when he realized who the old man was talking about. 'It can't be… not in this world too!' he despaired, frantically shaking his head and making warding gestures with his hands.

"Ranma is a brave young man. Not only has he helped me get here, braving valiantly all the dangers in our way, but he has also saved your life. Now there's someone I wouldn't be ashamed of calling son-in-law."

Ranma let his head fall down in defeat and Kasumi pat him on the back in support while Rydia looked at the scene with obvious interest… and a bit of jealousy, even if she didn't know where that feeling had come from.

"Father! Stop it! You're ridiculous and making a scene. It's not Edward's fault that we fell into an ambush. Things like that happen in a battle."

"That's not an excuse. That worthless fool was probably too afraid to risk his life to save you. He should take a leaf out of the king's book. From what I've heard he's a mighty warrior who's always in the thick of the battle with his men.

"The king is dead!" The bard rudely interrupted the sage. "He… he died while helping us get away."

The old man just snorted. "A likely story. Why would he try and save someone like you?"

"Father!" Anna interjected reproachfully, angry at his lack of tact. "Let me present to you Edward Chris von Muir, the prince of Damcyan."

"At your service," the prince took off his hat and put it against his chest while bending forward.

Tellah froze in shock. It was impossible. How could this coward be related to such a brilliant warrior and tactician? This new information lowered his opinion of the prince even further and made no show of hiding his feelings. "That's even worse. For a prince to sink that low… I really can't put my disappointment in words."

"Okay, that's it! I'm sick of it!" The sage's daughter exploded. "It's always about what YOU want, father. I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions. Edward is the sweetest and most gentle man you'll ever meet. He loves peace and doesn't like to fight. That doesn't make him any less of a man. If you have something to say do so peacefully, without all the drama. Is that clear?"

"Crystal," he answered meekly and hung his head in shame. That violent outburst had reminded him all too much of his late wife who had quite the temper, and he'd never won an argument against her.

"You know," Ranma whispered into Kasumi's ear, "this feels just like home. Minus the explosions, violence, and property damage of course. It's really funny to see it from the other side for once."

"You're right," Kasumi agreed. "It's nice not being in the middle of it for once since it's usually up to me to clean up afterwards."

The martial artist looked sheepishly at the brunette.

"Don't feel sorry. It's not that bad these days, since you've been a lot of help lately," the brunette alleviated Ranma's fears.

"Thank you. I know it's not easy on you and I'm trying to be nice to Akane, but she's just too temperamental. Sometimes I have the impression I'm the only one who's trying to make it work. And all that chaos that surrounds us doesn't make it easier for her. Maybe this time away from her will help her calm down a bit. And who knows, things might work out between us once we get back."

Kasumi gave him a radiant smile. He was finally growing up.

The quarrel was interrupted by a loud shout of "Your Highness!" coming from a door. The voice belonged to a nondescript middle-aged man in simple but expensive looking clothes who was running at full speed towards the prince.

"Ah, Bernard!" Edward happily greeted the man who was one of his father's most trusted advisors and had been put in charge of the Queen's safety for the duration of the crisis. "I'm glad to see you. Hopefully you have some good news."

When the prince saw Bernard's grim look he panicked. "My mother!" He grabbed the advisor's shoulders and stared intensely at him. "My mother is alright, isn't she? Please, tell me she is."

"Your Highness," Bernard removed his feathered hat and lowered his head. "I'm really sorry, but we were betrayed. The enemy forces were waiting for us inside the secret passage behind the throne and took us completely by surprise. The Queen… your mother… I'm really sorry. The white mages tried every curative spell they knew but couldn't bring her back.

Like a puppet that had its strings cut Edward sagged to the ground and just looked ahead with a vacant expression.

"Edward!" Anna quickly embraced the prince from behind and the both of them remained in that position for a few moments, no one willing to interrupt their moment together.

"Darling," the young woman softly whispered. "You need to put yourself together. The people, YOUR people need you. You can't let your emotions keep you from your duties. The future of the kingdom lies in your hands now."

Edward turned his head and looked at his love, tears running down his face as he sobbed into her bosom.

"Let it all out," she pat him on the back a few times.

"Are you feeling better?" Anna asked two minutes later once his tears had stopped flowing."

"Not really," he answered as he got up, resolutely looking ahead as he had made up his mind, "but I have work to do. I'll save the grieving for later."

"Bernard!" The prince called for the advisor with a strong and authoritative voice. "Gather all the white mages and have them tend to the wounded and dead. Have everyone who can still walk transport everyone else to the infirmary. Let's try and save as many people as possible."

Bernard didn't waste any time and went to relay the prince's orders. He was happy to see his liege take his duties seriously.

"Ranma! We should help too," Kasumi suggested and the pigtailed teen agreed.

The following few hours were very busy for the companions. Kasumi, Rydia, and Tellah helped the white mages in the infirmary while Ranma took care of bringing in the dead and wounded.

Whenever the mages had exhausted their mana pool they used the miraculous Mana Recovery Pot(1) to refill it. Just as useful was the Health and Stamina Recovery Pot(1). A simple sip of the pot's water restored the drinker back to peak fighting condition, healing most wounds. Unfortunately it couldn't restore missing limbs and only removed some of the known curses. Hearing about this Ranma jumped on the occasion and greedily drank some of the water in hopes of curing his curse without thinking about the possible consequences. He splashed himself with cold water to see if it worked, but it was a grumpy redhead who got bonked on the head by Tellah who scolded her for her recklessness as there was no way to know how the magic of the pot would react to the the foreign magic inside her body. Having to explain her curse to the bystanders didn't help to improve her mood either. But she was mostly angry at herself for once again being too impulsive. At least the magical water hadn't locked the curse as a quick run to the bathroom confirmed.

Still, Ranma and Kasumi agreed that those magical pots were very useful, but they were immediately warned about the consequences of overusing them. Apparently, powerful artifacts like these come with some serious drawbacks. Not only does the Stamina Recovery Pot put a serious strain on the body and its ability to regenerate, but drinking its water also accelerates the aging process of the body; the more serious the wound the faster the aging. Some people have even died after indulging too much.

The Mana Recovery Pot has its own drawback. The more you use it the longer it takes for your body to recover mana naturally, but since the white mages in the castle didn't expect another crisis like this one in the near future they didn't bother with the consequences. However, Tellah told Kasumi and Rydia not to use it more than once since they were going to leave soon and couldn't risk being a liability on the journey.

They understood and heeded the warning. And so it was that after having exhausted her reserves Kasumi watched the mages at work, fascinated, hoping to learn some useful spells or at least deepen her knowledge of magic. She loved reading but knew from experience that experience trumped book learning. At the same time she also smiled at the cute scene of Rydia sleeping peacefully on a padded bench with her head on Ranma's knees. The pigtailed teen shrugged her shoulders when he saw Kasumi look into their direction.

The day had been very taxing on everyone, but especially on this little girl who had had to grow up too fast. In the short time she had known her Kasumi had become really fond of the young, courageous summoner who had decided to take life head-on instead of giving in to depression and she wished her sisters were more like this little darling. She fell into a short daydream in which she was standing near a man with no defining shape or face. Rydia was standing between the two of them with a radiant smile on her face while holding their hands. She took a closer look at the faceless and formless stranger and saw that he wore his hair in a pigtail. She woke up from the dream with her eyes wide open in shock. A healthy blush developed on her face and she shook her head. No, that was just silly. But then again… having seen Ranma and Rydia interact and play together when they had a few moments of free time it was clear to her that the martial artist had taken a liking to the summoner too.

She was shaken out of her thoughts by a male voice. "Kasumi, are you okay?"

"What? Oh, Ranma. Yes, I'm alright. A bit tired, though."

"With all the work you've done today that's not surprising. Say, have you seen the prince anywhere? I haven't seen him in a while."

"I haven't seen him either," Kasumi explained. "Look! There's Anna: She probably knows."

The martial artist waved his hand and when Anna noticed them she came over.

"You don't look so good," the white mage noticed. "Did something happen?"

"I'm fine. But Edward isn't. He had hoped that the strongest mages inside the castle might be able to help to bring back his parents, but they didn't have any success."

"How come?" Ranma wondered. I thought magic could resurrect the dead."

"It's not quite that simple, Ranma," Kasumi chided the martial artist for his bluntness, a bad habit she really had to cure him of. "A white mage told me about the five most important factors that determine the effectiveness of a resurrection spell: the strength and experience of the mage, the spell used, the amount of time that has passed since the moment of death, the age of the deceased, and the state of the body."

"That is correct," Anna confirmed. "The spell should have worked but those Baron bastards apparently cast an unknown curse at the bodies which repels all resurrection and healing spells and none of our curse removal spells have worked either. Even my father, one of the most accomplished mages in the world, has never seen anything like it. Edward didn't take it well and has retired to his room to think. I'm not worried, though. He's tougher than my father thinks and I'm sure he'll get over it."

Kasumi and Ranma were speechless. How could anyone be that cruel? The martial artist thought back to his battle with Saffron, and while the Phoenix king had really tried to kill him and his friends he doubted that even that immoral bastard would have gone that far to get rid of his enemies.

They talked for a while until Anna felt a pair of hands cover her eyes. "Who is it?" A voice asked from behind her.

"Edward," she turned around to embrace the prince. "How are you feeling?"

"I've been better," he answered bitterly. All these wars, all these battles… Why can't we all just live in peace? My parents have never done anything wrong and have always had the best interests of our people at heart. I just don't understand it."

"Welcome to the real world!" Tellah interrupted Edward, having joined the group a few moments earlier. "Crying and whining won't bring them back. You know that you're pathetic. I really don't understand what my daughter sees in you."

"Father! This really isn't the right moment," Anna scolded the sage once again. "There are more important matters to take care of right now."

"Say," Ranma interrupted. "Why did they attack in the first place? It doesn't make sense. First they start a war and then they leave just like that, without finishing the job."

"That's easy," Edward answered. "They came for the Crystal, and unfortunately they got it. There wasn't really any reason to continue the battle afterwards."

"WHAT!" Tellah interrupted loudly, waking up Rydia at the same time. "They STOLE the Fire Crystal? Why would they do that?"

"I don't know," the prince said, "but one of the prisoners might. Maybe we should ask them."

Not having any better ideas the whole group followed Edward towards the dungeons where the few enemy soldiers that had been captured were held.

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The prison guards stood at attention as soon as they saw their new monarch approach and didn't move until the chief warden had led the group inside.

"Bring one of the prisoners into the interrogation room!" Edward ordered and their guide immediately obliged. They entered a sparsely furnished room containing only a table and a few chairs and a few minutes later the chief warden had come back with a cuffed man who he then sat forcefully down on a chair.

"Tell us what you know and I'll see to it that you are treated well. If you don't cooperate we'll have to get rough," Edward threatened, cringing inwardly as this was so unlike him. He really didn't want to do this, but he didn't have much of a choice. He hoped inwardly that the prisoner wouldn't be stubborn and tell them everything."

The soldier glared defiantly at the prince but didn't say a word.

"It would be in your best interest to cooperate," he tried again, putting some more firmness into his voice.

The soldier remained silent.

Tellah shook his head in disappointment and pushed the prince away. "Let me show you how it's done. Watch and learn!."

The old man looked at the prisoner with contempt before slapping him in the face; hard. "Will you answer?" He growled and slapped the man once more.

"You can't do that!" A shocked Kasumi grabbed the sage's arm. "That's inhuman."

"Violence is the only language they understand," Tellah explained. "A few more of those and he'll tell us everything he knows."

"Isn't there another way?" The gentle young woman tried to reason with the old man.

"No there isn't. And now let me do my work." He freed his wrist from Kasumi's hand and stared at the cuffed man once more.

"Will you talk?" the sage tried once again, but when he got no answer he shook his head. "You brought this on yourself." He positioned his hands in front of the prisoner. "THUNDER!" He shouted and a small lightning bolt hit the man in the stomach making him cry out in pain.

Kasumi couldn't stand it and looked away. "I can't watch that." She grabbed a protesting Rydia and dragged her out of the room. Ranma, though not as shaken by the spectacle as the brunette had been, followed her outside as he didn't want to leave her alone.

"Kasumi," the martial artist tried to calm the upset girl. "I don't approve of the method either, but I don't see how else we can get the information we need", he explained as another pained shout came from the room.

"I know," she sighed, "but that still doesn't make it right."

"Don't be upset," Rydia tried to help. "He's a bad man and he probably deserves it."

"Yes," Ranma agreed. "Look at what they did to Mist and the poor people here."

"Maybe," the brunette answered, "but I still don't like it and I don't want to have any part in it."

The pigtailed teen didn't say anything but put his hands on Kasumi's shoulders which calmed her down and gave her the strength to calmly wait for the torture session to end. The three young people waited patiently, the calm only broken by cries of pray and angry shouting. About five minutes later the crying had finally stopped and been replaced with a series of barely audible sobs. Another ten minutes later the door opened and the unconscious prisoner was dragged back to his cell.

They went back to join the other in the room and noticed some blood on the chair and a puddle of it on the ground.

"Is he...?" Kasumi pointed at the puddle but was interrupted before she could finish her sentence."

"He'll live," Tellah reassured her. "At least until the trial. That's still more than what he deserves"

"So, what did he tell you?" Ranma asked, taking note of the bitterness in the sage's voice.

"Quite a lot, actually," the old man answered. "Baron wants to get their hands on the four Elemental Crystals. They attacked Damcyan to steal the Fire Crystal that was being kept here. They… have already acquired the Water Crystal in Mysidia," Tellah continued, bitterly, fists shaking in anger. They killed the queen and the king as a warning to the other kingdoms as to what would happen to them if they ever considered going against them. I also learnt that their next target is Fabul's Wind Crystal.

"Mysidia? Your hometown? That's horrible!" Kasumi sympathized with the old man.

Tellah nodded sadly. "Thankfully that attack hadn't been quite as deadly as the one on Damcyan, but still, it is another crime Baron has to answer for… and I WILL make sure they pay in full.

"So, what do we do now?" Ranma asked.

"Well…," the sage stroked his beard in thought. "I did promise to help you find a way back home after we'd rescued my daughter, and as I said before I'll have to do some research in the library. However, after the attack and all the damage to the town I doubt I'll be able to study much until things have normalized a bit. I know you're probably anxious to leave, but I'm afraid it will take some time before I can get any research done. In the meantime we should warn Fabul about the impending attack. If they have the time to prepare they might be able to ward off an enemy attack.

Ranma thought about it for a bit and wasn't sure what to do. Fabul was the place that Tellah had mentioned before; the one with the warrior monks. He really wanted to go and see what new techniques they might be able to teach him, but that wouldn't be fait towards Kasumi. He was sure that the brunette was anxious to go back home to her family. Before he could give his opinion Kasumi had already taken the initiative.

"I think we should head to Fabul," she resolutely stood up, much to the surprise of the martial artist.

"I want to see more of the world," she continued, her eyes burning with determination. "I want to help people. I've never felt happier and more alive than I do at the moment. I have the feeling that I can make a difference. I- I'm not ready to go home yet." She put her hand in front of her mouth in shock, realizing just then what she had admitted to.

"I'm sorry," she quickly apologized and bowed before Ranma. "That was rather selfish of me. I should have considered your feelings."

"Ah, no, that's fine," the martial artist answered. "You're always nice to everyone and you have the right to be selfish for once. I've never seen you so determined. And… well… to tell you the truth," he scratched his head in embarrassment, "I'd really like to meet those monks. Tellah told me that they might know some cool techniques. So, yeah, I'm all for it."

"Thank you." Kasumi gave the martial artist her most radiant smile, before she winced when her eyes fell on Rydia. In her selfish exuberance she hadn't taken the little girl's opinion into account. This world was a dangerous place, and she really didn't know what she'd do if anything happened to the summoner.

"But what about Rydia?" The brunette asked. "It would be irresponsible of us to put her further into danger when she could stay here where it's safe."

Before she could continue she was interrupted by the girl in question.

"NO!" Rydia shouted, tears appearing in her eyes before she clung to Kasumi's waist. "I want to go with you. I don't want to be left behind. I know I can be useful. Please, don't abandon me."

"No one wants to abandon you," Kasumi hugged the little girl. "On the contrary. I care a lot about you. I'm just afraid for your safety. I don't want you to get hurt."

"I don't care!" the summoner interrupted. "I know that all of you will keep me safe.

"I guess you have your answer there," Tellah chuckled. "She's definitely more useful than someone else I know," he not quite discreetly stared into the prince's direction.

"Father!" Anna scolded the old man

A growl coming from Ranma's stomach nipped the next impending shouting match in the bud. "Heh. Sorry about that," he apologized. "I guess I am a bit hungry. It's been a while since I've eaten anything."

"That's quite alright," Edward pat the pigtailed teen amicably on the back and looked sheepishly at the group when his own stomach answered the call. "I guess I'm a bit hungry myself. It's been a long day for all of us. I'll have the cooks prepare a copious meal right away. It's the least I can do for you and your friends for saving Anna and the castle."

True to his words he sent one of his guards to the kitchen and led his guests into the royal family's private dining room which was largely spacious enough to accommodate at least twenty guests.

"Sit down wherever you like," the prince offered as he took a seat next to Anna, drawing the ire of Tellah in the process.

The young woman caught the scathing look her father had shot Edward and really was not in the mood for another quarrel with him. "Father! Not now! We've had this argument earlier and I won't change my mind."

"Whatever do you mean?" The sage innocently asked, but he noticed right away that his daughter wasn't fooled for one second.

"I'm sick of all this arguing and fighting. I want to get it over with now, so let's get to the point. I am really sorry for what I've done, but at that time I was just too angry at you to think rationally. Edward is innocent. Eloping was my idea, not his. We were about to return to apologize for it, but then that attack from Baron happened. Since we're all here now just let's discuss this calmly and rationally, like adults. First of all, why don't you want me to marry Edward? Is it because he prefers to be a bard rather than a warrior?"

"You want to know why? Fine! I will tell you why. It has nothing to do with the fact that he likes to play the harp and recite poetry all day… well, mostly. No. The real problem is that he wooed you secretly behind my back. If he were a real man he would have asked me for the right to date you. But what does that spineless bastard do? He runs away with you in the middle of the night, like a common thief, just because he's too afraid to ask me for your hand in marriage. How do you expect me to respect someone like that?"

Edward let his head hang in shame since he couldn't deny the old man's accusations.

"I might even still have consented to the union if I hadn't seen him cower in fear while you were targeted by the bowmen. That just proves that he doesn't really love you or else he'd have been willing to take the arrows for you. I don't understand how you can love someone who isn't even willing to lay down his life for you. H He really is a despicable creature."

"Are you quite finished?" Anna asked after Tellah had run out of steam. "Well, let me tell you one thing. There are many women that prefer a sensible man like my Edward here to a brute who thinks that violence is the solution to everything. Edward is the sweetest soul you'll ever meet and he always tries to get along with everybody. If you had just agreed to our marriage we wouldn't have had to run away."

The old man blinked at this. "Wait! What was that about me not agreeing to the marriage? What are you talking about?"

Now it was Anna's turn to blink. "Well, it's true. When Edward asked your permission to marry me you refused, very rudely if I might add."

"Are you out of your mind?" Tellah raged and slammed his fist on the table. "He never asked me anything. I've never even really spoken to him, as if he was trying to avoid me.

Anna turned her head towards the prince who gulped in fear when he saw the frown on the young woman's face. "Edward darling? Is that true?" She asked in her sweetest voice. "You wouldn't lie to me, now would you? Father is just making this up, right?"

"Ah, well. You see… Erhm, sweetheart, please understand…," the prince stuttered.

"But… what about what you've told me? That he had refused to let us get married and violently disapproved of our relationship? Were all of those things lies?"

"I'm sorry. I'm really, REALLY sorry," Edward apologized. "I wanted to ask him, but when I saw the disapproving look on his face I just lost my nerve and couldn't do it. I was certain he would refuse," he admitted shamefully.

"Oh, Edward," the young woman shook her head. "You should have told me. No wonder father is so upset."

"Do you understand his true nature now?" The sage smirked as the prince had finally shown his true face. There was no way his daughter would want to stay with him. "Do you really want to get married to someone like that?"

"Yes. Yes, I do," Anna affirmed. "I am a bit disappointed with him right now, but I love him… with all my heart. But you're right. That was a really shameful thing to do, so how about I make a deal with you?"

"What deal?" The old man asked curiously, not understanding what his daughter was getting at.

"Give me six months. Six months and I'll turn him into someone you would be proud to call son-in-law."

"WHAT?" Tellah and Edward shouted at the same time.

"I know he's not very courageous right now, but I'm sure we can work on that," she explained. "I want you to consent to our marriage, but I'll wed him anyway, whatever you say. I'm a grown woman and can decide for myself who I want to marry."

"But, sweetheart," Edward tried to reason with the young woman.

"No buts, darling. Father is right. You need to be more assertive, especially now that you have a country to rule. Your subjects need a strong monarch to help them get through this crisis. You have responsibilities now."

The prince looked rather unsurely at his love, but when he saw her determined look he really didn't want to disappoint her and banged his fist on the table, surprising everyone. "You know what? You're right. I HAVE responsibilities. But… I don't really know what to do," he deflated a bit, surprised at his earlier boldness.

"Don't worry, dear," Anna took his hand in hers and smiled at him, "I'll help you. We will manage… together."

"Ah, well… Six months you say?" Tellah stroked his beard in thought. "Oh, alright. Since you won't come home willingly and I can't force you, that's probably the best I can get. At least I'm glad you're alright. Leaving like that without saying anything… The nerves. I was worried, you know?"

"I'm sorry, father. I guess I hadn't really thought that far. That was stupid and inconsiderate from my part. Please forgive me."

"Of course I do," the sage got up and took his daughter in his arms. "Just promise me you won't be so reckless again."

"I promise."

"As for you", the old man looked at the prince disapprovingly. "I'm not convinced you are the right one for my little girl, but I hope for her sake that you'll be able to get your act together and make something out of yourself. You've got six months. Don't waste them."

Edward nodded solemnly as he was determined to prove himself to his future father-in-law.

With that heavy topic out of the way the mood inside the room lightened considerably and dinner was served shortly afterwards. During the meal the group was talking and the group was talking about this and that, answering Kasumi and Ranma's question about the kingdom and the world in general, as well as the different dishes served. They couldn't place most of the ingredients, but the food was delicious. Edward and Anna were very surprised to hear that the two were from a different universe and asked some questions of their own about the differences between the two worlds.

Once they had finished Ranma remembered something he had wanted to ask earlier but had completely forgotten in all the chaos. "What was that spell I used earlier?"

"I thought you'd never ask," Tellah joked. "That spell is called 'Haste' and increases the speed of the target. I have to admit that it came as a surprise to me since it's not a novice spell."

"So, what kind of magic is it?

"Well, that's difficult to say," the sage replied. There are several mages that can use the spell, among them white and black mages. Well, you know what do now to find out. Now that you've used the spell you should be able to find your secondary magical specialization mana pool. Give it a try.

Ranma cleared his mind once more and fell into a trance. This time it went faster since he knew what to look for and Tellah almost fell off his chair in surprise when he saw the aura the pigtailed boy was emitting. It was grey.

"I wasn't expecting that," Tellah stated. "That's quite a surprise."

"What does the grey color mean?" Ranma eagerly asked.

"It means that you're a time mage(2), also sometimes called grey mage. Time mages use spells that influence time and space. It's perfect for you."

"What do you mean?" The martial artist asked, intrigued.

"Well, it could be your ticket home. With enough training you might be able to open a portal that can send you back to your dimension. However, you have a long way to go before you can even hope learning a spell like that? It's one of the rarest forms of magic there is and it's a really strange coincidence that you should gain it."

"Maybe because I came here through a portal," Ranma suggested.

"Hmmm, could be," the old man agreed, but I'm not sure. I doubt that alone would be enough since most of the spells are related to time."

"What about the Nanban Mirror," Kasumi advanced her own theory, remembering that incident quite well. After all, how often do you witness time travelling?

"What's a Nanban Mirror?" The sage asked. He had never heard of such a mirror before.

"Of course, the Nanban Mirror. How could I forget about that?" The martial artist shook his head and explained it to Tellah. "The Nanban Mirror is an artifact that allows the user to travel through time and I used it to try to get rid of the curse. Unfortunately it didn't work out for me and eventually the mirror got destroyed."

"I'd really like to hear that story," Rydia stated. "It sounds like fun."

"Believe me, it wasn't," Ranma answered, but did tell the story anyway, much to the amusement of everyone around the table.

They talked a while longer before they got up and Edward showed them to their rooms. They had a long day ahead of them and needed all the sleep they could get.

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(1) They are not named in the game.

(2) As far as I know there was no color attributed to time magic in Final Fantasy V.

AUTHOR'S NOTES!

As you've probably noticed I've fleshed out the Damcyan part a lot more than the game did. The reason is that there are a lot of things that don't make much sense in the game.

For instance, it doesn't make sense that Edward knows stuff about Golbez when even Cecil has never heard of him.

Anna's death (much like Aerith's in FF VII) doesn't make any sense since it's possible to resurrect people. I could have come up with lots of ways to bypass that problem, but not letting her dies in the first place was the easiest and most original I think.

Edward making his grand entrance after Cecil found an agonizing Anna doesn't make much sense either. If you love someone would you just leave that person all alone like that? I doubt it. The scene was probably just scripted that way to add some angst.

As you've noticed I took some liberties with the king and queen's death, but since they aren't relevant to the story anyway it doesn't really matter, but it gives an explanation as to why resurrection doesn't always work.

We never learn why Edward eloped with Anna. Well, I think I came up with a good enough reason.

POSTED 2013/01/20

EDITED 2013/01/26

EDITED 2015/02/13